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Opinion / Politics

How to End the Southwest Border Wall Standoff

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Every American now knows the exhausting, cornerstone facts:  An intransigent US House Speaker, flush with power and sure her socialist agenda is the future, refuses to fund anything like a protective barrier along the southwest border.  A resolute President, behind the Resolute Desk, pledges to build a barrier that aims to create credible deterrence, diminish the gush of illegal narcotics and people, protecting America’s public health, public safety and territorial integrity.

To date, we have a standoff.  The stalemate has played out as a purely political issue.  President Trump requested just under six billion dollars for the “wall,” from a federal budget that tops out at four trillion dollars.  Note, a trillion equals one million million, so the President asked for 0.000015 of the federal budget to start the protective barrier or wall.  The House Speaker – and her left-lurching caucus – said “no.”  The president then offered a half dozen compromises to get to “yes,” and still got “no.”

With the partial government shutdown lifted until February 15, the President has endorsed a bipartisan effort to get to “yes,”’ while others within the White House and Republican Party suggest either a second partial shut-down or declaring – as past presidents have for other reasons – a “national emergency,” effectively declaring the illegal drug and illegal immigration crises have reached a “tipping point.”

These three options – political compromise, partial shutdown, and national emergency – are all possible.  But there is a fourth way, and it may at this time be worth considering.  This fourth way requires that the issue become less political and more administrative.  It would allow the socialist-beholden Democrats to claim they blocked this security effort, for whatever that gained them; it would more importantly allow the President to use executive power to resolve the issue, without a national emergency declaration.

What is this option?  It is the marriage of two executive authorities.  The first is found in the longstanding Title 10 authority, with support of the Defense Department, to build barriers along the southwest border to create counter-narcotics and counter-transnational deterrence. 

The specific provision, Section 284, reads:  “The purposes for which the [Defense] Secretary may provide support (a) for other departments of agencies of the Federal Government or State, local or tribal law enforcement agencies, are the following … [include] (7) construction of roads and fences and installation of lighting to block drug smuggling corridors across international boundaries of the United States.”

To be even more specific, there are eight DEA-identified regional drug transportation “corridors” and two of them, corridors E and F, cover the entire southwestern border.  Thus, the initial authorization apparently exists already for creating such barriers, without statutory limit, if the resources were available – without needing an emergency or shutdown.

This moves us to the second question:  Where does the President find roughly six billion dollars, if the US House Speaker and her caucus refuse to make resources available in pending appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security, which nests Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the US Coast Guard (USCG)?

The answer is in executive power of to transfer and reprogram resources.  For anyone interested, these authorities are explained in the Congressional Research Service’s “Transfer and Reprogramming of Appropriations.”  Notably, every president has used these powers, extensively. 

In a nutshell, any President may, unless otherwise proscribed, meet unforeseen needs with “authority to shift funds from one appropriations or fund account to another.” In addition, departments and agencies are “permitted to shift funds from one purpose to another within an appropriations account.”

As a practical matter, using this transfer and reprogramming authority, de-conflicting it with any prior statutory limitations, the Bush Administration transferred enormous sums of money (billions) from departments like State to Defense, within departments and agencies, in some cases with congressional concurrence, in others by notification. 

These transfers and reprogramming decisions could probably be executed in small amounts, sequentially or concurrently, made geographically and functionally specific, and aligned by interagency working group or task force to assure key parts of these two southwest corridors for drug trafficking are gradually covered by greater deterrent barriers.

Finally, there is an underutilized authority that is seldom even recognized, but genuinely valuable.  As an Assistant Secretary of State under George W. Bush and Colin Powell, I used it to good effect. This is the authority to review money that was obligated (to prevent it from being rescinded), but never liquidated, that is never yet spent.  There is actually a LOT of that money “parked” in what amount to escrow accounts, obligated to contractors for future use, and yet never spent. 

Example:  What I did as a newly-confirmed Assistant Secretary was find (in one bureau) $60 million that had not been liquidated, going back ten years.  I then required that money be liquidated by Ambassadors within 48 hours for the purpose appropriated by Congress, or I would de-obligate it immediately, and put it against new requirements.  The entire $60 million came back to taxpayers, and was applied against future requirements – reducing future costs.  That could also be done to pay for the wall; just imagine how many bureaus and agencies reside in federal departments.

In short, there is a non-political way to begin work on the border wall.  That could be executed if the other options fall short.  Then we could start the hard work – of fighting socialism, resolving the wider illegal immigration and drug crises, and reaching agreements that will help early 2020 be smoother than 2019.  Just an idea.

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Read more articles by Robert B. Charles

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Kim

Build the wall/the fence/the infrastructure by any means necessary, please! Border control agents in the area are the best source to gauge the need for a physical barrier. If there are relatively few illegal crossings over or under existing barriers, I’d say that’s reason enough to add new (and repair damaged) fencing. And it appears that there are provisions on the books to support funding. Dividing 4,000,000,000,000 (trillion, budget) by 6,000,000,000 (billion, wall) gives us 666. So, 1/666th of the budget goes toward the wall, or about .0016% of the budget. I know those numbers disagree with Mr. Charles’. (There are a thousand billions in a trillion.) Any way you slice it, the amount requested is a very very small part of the budget. Considering the SAVINGS realized by building it and preventing “bad people” from getting into the U.S., it’s a drop in the bucket.

Morbious

The author leaves out one very perplexing detail: no matter how he proceeds, the president is going to face an order to cease from a communist federal judge, just as he has in the recent past. That is the ace in the hole the speaker believes makes her omnipotent in this matter. My thought: either line up another federal judge to grant imprimatur to the wall, or to simply defy the communists, calling them out at the same time. Its time to check the pulse of the american people to see whether we’ll end up swamped with third world dem voters and become Venezuela, or whether we are willing to support the president in his one man fight to restore this country.

Carla

Your idea was an amazing one, but don’t you think Trump and/or someone on his committee would have already thought of this? Whatever it takes, that barrier needs to be built sooner than later!!!!! It has been promised so many times by every single POTUS within the last 50 years, but now that Trump is actually doing something about it, all those other previous “leaders” (I choose that word lightly) refuse to admit they also promised this. Their ignorance is disgusting and their attitudes toward Trump is beyond anything I have ever witnessed in my life. NO POTUS has ever been treated like this and it’s time WE as a nation back what he is trying to do. I don’t care if you like him personally or care for some of his words, he is getting the job done and he is keeping his promises, unlike any of those others… Read more »

PaulE

Well in two weeks we will all see what happens. Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats on the so-called bi-partisan committee continue to say they are for border security (lie), but not one dollar for a wall, fence, barrier or whatever other term one might use to describe a permanent, fixed barrier. Their current position also includes 1,000 fewer beds at ICE detention centers, which would force ICE to go back to “catch and release” for the criminal illegal aliens they catch in more cases. It also seems Jared is spearheading the strategy for Republican negotiations with the Democrats, so I can only imagine what he will be willing to trade away to get a deal. Several reports this morning indicate he may be suggesting giving DACA folks (many are in their 20’s, so they are NOT kids anymore) some sort of permanent residency status (hopefully not amnesty and full citizenship… Read more »

Sandra Kurotobi

If you have OAN One America News, it’s a great source of news with no commercial interruptions….educational segments, if on your channel lineup, every hour they show a real time estimate of how much, how many, year to date figures on how much it’s costing us taxpayers for “ILLEGALS”, on Diect TV is channel 347….

LuAnn

What about El Chapo?
And what are we going to do about the 25 million illegals here now? They are draining our economy. Mandatory eVerify is an answer. Cut off the jobs magnet and the freebies that we, the taxpayers are paying for, and they will go home. Deport and re-enter legally.

teresa Ann d'alessandro

can’t understand how those who support the idiot haters and left are proud to do so. how can any of these people call themselves American citizens. There is nothing American about them. we have got to stop them and we can do it. We need to get in touch with everyone we know even your liberal friends and make them realize Pelosi etc are wrong, wrong, wrong.

Edith Clark

I agree another way needs to be used to help President Trump reach out and do what he and many others needs to be done to secure our border. Even though we know those who want to get in our country will still try to enter by crook or hook. But something absolutely needs to be done.

Linda meyer

Why haven’t we heard of this before? He should take money from planned parenthood!!!!!!

Linda Germana

No matter which avenue President takes, Pelosi will declare it political. However, whatever it takes is worth it.

Tom

Build the wall; deport illegals; end chain migration; no path to citizenship for illegals; end birth right citizenship, as it isn’t within current law.

Danny

Would someone please let our current President know this!

Chuck

Build the wall. No excuse. Reallocate the funds and get on with it. Screw the liberal judges. They can rule. They cannot enforce.

Chloe

I think this is a great idea! I hope it will be brought to the Presidents attention and that he will utilize it to get the wall built! AS you said, I am sure there is a lot of money out there that could be used and since it is, technically, my money and yours, it would be nice to see it spent for something this country needs.

Michael Javick

AND then THEY will RUN CRYING TO THEIR LIB JUDGES—AND BINGO–GET STOPPED AGAIN ! ?

Christine G Joseph

I still think the left would jump at the idea of their image on the wall. Trump could auction off the most visible spots. It would be a fundraiser, no cost to taxpayers.

Surrelam

I’m sure there are legal hurdles, but what about Ted Cruz’s idea of getting $$$ from El Chapo?

Stephen Russell

Privitize Construction
Bidding war for.
Go Emergency Decree?
Bypass Cong on other.

Dan W.

Too bad that the President didn’t push for the wall two years ago. Paul Ryan may have been feckless but he was in favor of physical barriers as part of a border security package.

Patrick Moody

Makes sense. Many corporations will recall funds for specific projects if they are not undertaken or completed in a certain length of time then re-appropriate those funds to another project. Just government doing that in these cases.